Friends And Enemies

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    Nottingham, Great Britain

    He sat dejected on the table. That was the resignation of his chief technical officer. After everything positive last year, this was the last he expected. Ronnie Castle pondered. How could he fix a situation like this? Was there any way back for British Racing Team, everything he had worked for all his life. In many ways, Castle was still young. He was 54, and had led BRT since its start up, some long 23 years ago. Since then castle had overseen seven driver’s championships and four constructor’s championships. Last season, they won both. However, their star man, twice champion Fernando Sanchez, has left to join arch rivals Master Engineering Team. And Castle had such a strong relationship with Sanchez. The young Spaniard is only 28 and has won two world championships, both with BRT. Sanchez won 21 grands prix and injected a wonderful passion into the most successful team ever In Formula One. His partner for the last three years was another champion, Santiago Alcaraz, a Paraguayan who spent his first three years at BRT and won a championship in between Sanchez’s two. British Racing Team have won the last three Driver’s championships, and now they are in turmoil. Sanchez is at Master Engineering Team and Alcaraz is at LeedsLondon. Also, winter testing has been dreadful for BRT so far, and they have had to get test driver Luke Williamson to do all testing so far. Castle has lost key staff since the euphoria of last season and the devastation of now as well. His technical officer is the latest in a long line. As well as his two drivers, his company’s finances are not looking pretty. There are just seven days until the season begins, and Ronnie Castle has to sort out two drivers, numerous staff and try to work on the car, which amazingly is one of the last priorities right now.

    He walked out of the meeting room and began to climb the stairs of his Nottingham based factory, which more recently had turned into an oversized trophy cabinet. Castle walked past the office of his technical director who had just resigned. As he went through the gallery, he stopped for a moment to observe the recent pictures of race wins and championships from Alcaraz and Sanchez. A small tear began to roll down the face of a man so involved in Formula One. He walked through the final stage of the gallery and sat down in his office, kicking the filing cabinet in the process. He sat down on his chair and buried his head into his hands. Castle picked up his pen from underneath his desk and began to write on a sheet of paper with the team logo as its header. He writes a title of “Driver Possibilities.”

    Twenty minutes later, he pays a visit to the team owner. On the way, he sealed the brown envelope with what he did earlier and passes it to him. In total silence, he leaves having not said a word and just handing over an A5 sized brown envelope with his work in it. Carlos Martin, the team owner was clearly concerned about the look of Castle.

    “Ronnie, are you alright?”

    “No. No I’m not alright. This team is the one thing I have worked for all my life, and now look what’s happening. We are in a bad situation. Last season, we had the two best drivers on the grid and by far the best staff. No we’ll be lucky if we get a car on the podium this seas- in fact no, we won’t because we don’t have any Flaming Drivers for Gods Sake!” Castle’s emotion and passion for this team showed as much in moments like this as they did when Alcaraz and Sanchez won championships.

    “Ronnie, just calm down. Look, we can fix this. We’ve been through worse than this.”

    “I can’t take this anymore.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “I’m leaving. I’m leaving the team.”

    “What? What the fuck are you talking about?”

    “ This team would be better off without me.”

    “No, what? You love this team?” The sheer surprise for Martin was meaning he was struggling to get his words and feelings out.

    “That’ why I have to go. I love this team. I’m taking blame for this. It’s my responsibility, It’s my fault.”

    “No, don’t go, please RONNIE!”

    The 54-year old walked away listening but disagreeing.

    Two hours later, he was at his home in Mansfield. He sat down on his sofa and stretches his legs out onto his coffee table. His black shoes crashed down on top of the newspaper lying on the table. A strong vibration suddenly happened, his phone was ringing. It came up as a number which he didn’t know. He answered it anyway. “Good evening, Ronnie Castle how can I help you?” A strong Indian accent replied to the tired Nottingham voice of Castle.

    “Hello, my name is Naweed Khan. I raced in GP3 last season you may have heard of me.”

    “No I’m afraid not, what are you ringing me for.”

    “I can help you.”

    “What? I don’t even know who you are.”

    “I want to race for your team.”

    “Look, I have been in Formula One for over 20 years, and I am not employing someone I don’t know. Anyway, I’m not sure I’m working at BRT anymore.”

    “I know. My friend works there he told me about you saying you were leaving.”

    “Who? Who told you that? They have no right to discuss things like that with their mates.”

    “Oh, oh well it was someone who I know but he said that that it well, oh, anyway. I can save your team. I am just 20 and I finished 3rd in GP3 last season, and I won at Monaco, it doesn’t come better than that.”

    A heavy sign came from Castle. “Meet me, tomorrow. I want to see just how good you are. Meet me at the Nottingham Arts Theatre, outside at 3pm. But I am making no promises whatsoever. It won’t be down to me. I’m in a backstage role at BRT now.”

    “Oh thank you so much Mr Castle, and don’t worry I won’t let you down I can save this team!”


    The next day, he woke up at 7am, to the tune of his alarm clock sounding. He got in his car and drove to the BRT centre. As he typed in the code on the entry device, he heard the unmistakable sound of a Formula One engine firing up. An ironic smile was on his face. The team had worked hard and an engine was going, which is always a start. He was very pleased to realise that his team had worked very hard to get this engine going, which right now was a glimmer of hope for the champions. He entered the building and it was so different, just in the space of the time since he had resigned. More people looked to be actually working, and there were smiles on positive faces in British Racing Team, which hadn’t been seen at the team for some time. Somehow going unnoticed, Castle walked upstairs in a cool manner, and a smile just about erected itself on Castle’s face. He walked into Carlos Martin’s office, and a discussion ensued.

    “Ronnie. What are you doing here?”

    “Look, Carlos, yesterday I was wrong. I want to stay here. What I did yesterday was wrong. Please, tell me you haven’t got anyone else into principal role. Please let me stay here.”

    “What’s brought this on then?”

    “I spoke to a very young man yesterday, and I’m meeting him today. He can save this team.”

    “I suppose I’d better trust you.”

    “So you’ve not got anyone else in? So I’m staying?”

    “You think I could replace someone of your calibre in less than a day?” Both men looked so happy and immediately laughed.

    A few hours later, a young gentleman was stood outside the Nottingham Arts Theatre. He was unknown and no-one in the town recognised him. Until Khan almost exploded with excitement upon seeing a legend of Formula One, Castle wouldn’t have noticed him either.

    “Ah Naweed, hello.”

    “Good afternoon Mr Castle, how are you?”

    “I’m well thankyou, shall we go to the factory?”

    “Okay, but why did you ask me to meet you here?”

    “I don’t want the press going mad.”

    “Ah, right okay then.”

    The drive to the factory didn’t take long. When they got there, they went straight to Castle’s office. After a long discussion, Castle ended the conversation.

    “Can you come to Barcelona next week for a private testing session? I’m not saying you’re a driver, but I want to see how you’ll do in an F1 car.”

    “Oh I’d be honoured. I can make my own arrangements there if you like.”

    “NO. Absolutely not, the press will get suspicious. We’ll just say that you’re a reserve driver if anyone asks.”

    “Oh, ok, thank you very much.”

    The next day, Castle was greeted by Head of Driver Development at BRT, 34-year old Phillip Bacon.

    “Morning Ronnie, I have some great news!”

    “Okay, what’s that then?”

    “We might have a driver for next season… Carlos Samuel has said that he’d love to join us next season if we put an offer in for him!”

    “Oh wonderful, that’s great. Well done Phillip, I’ll discuss it in the meeting today.”

    Carlos Samuel raced with Magic Racing last season, but a tough financial year meant that they had to pull out of F1. Magic were loved by everyone in the paddock and it was a real shame to see them go, but they bowed out with a competitive tenth in the Constructor’s Championship. Samuel has achieved three wins and two poles in his career, but has never really challenged for the championship. He has always been a very steady driver, and castle tried to get him to the team three years ago, but it failed.

    3 hours and 46 minutes after the meeting, press and media officers swarm the BRT factory. A question comes from Michael Lynch, a renowned F1 journalist.

    “So then Mr Castle, do you think that Carlos is the right driver to take British Racing Team forwards after the losses of Sanchez and Alcaraz?”

    “Absolutely. This man hasn’t been in F1 very long, but for me he ahs proven a good talent, and I think we have got ourselves a good little driver onboard for what is sure to be a challenging but enjoyable season. British Racing Team are expecting to compete in both championship’s next season.”

    A tough grilling for both Castle and Samuel ensued, but both stayed adamant that the Brazilian would work well in BRT. Little did the press know that they were not too far off finding the 2nd driver for Castle’s team.

    The next morning, the team arrived in Barcelona after a long flight. For the first time in a long time, everyone in BRT was optimistic, and ready for the season ahead. They knew that Castle was lying when he said that they want to be challenging for both titles this season, because everyone who worked at the team knew that BRT was a team in transition. Some people were uncertain about their jobs at the team, but some were now reassured following the team signing Carlos Samuel and having a good idea about Naweed Khan becoming Driver No.2.

    When everyone gets to the Barcelona track, people go different ways. As the team are at Barcelona a day earlier than everyone else, they have the track to themselves and can work on the car for the season ahead without the distraction of constantly looking at their rivals. That’s another thing BRT are unsure about, who their rivals will be for this season. Will they beat at the top, fighting with MET, LeedsLondon and Bridge or will they be more at the rear, battling with the likes of German Power, NetGear and Pyramid Racing? Alternatively, some have suggested that BRT will not be a force but won’t struggle and will be involved in a midfield battle with Radnor Hills, Induced Power, Team Proceed and Connection Racing.

    After nearly two hours of setting up, Carlos Samuel finally gets in the car. After his outlap, he pitches the car around the final corner to start the first lap for BRT this season. There has already been two test sessions, but BRT have had to send their reserve Luke Williamson to do those. Finally British Racing Team begin a flying lap with a confirmed driver as Samuel applies pressure onto the brakes for Turns 1 & 2, a mini chicane. The Brazilian keeps the car at high speed for the next corner, before approaching the next mini hairpin. The yellow machine runs over the kerb onto the small straight before applying a serious amount of pressure onto the brakes, easing the car through the next corner. Samuel accelerates into the next corner before braking hard for the corner and negotiating the tricky final chicane, his steering wheel being worked extra hard as he makes his way through and arrives on the start/finish straight where he completes his lap.

    Samuel gets another 52 laps done during the day, varying from all four sets of tyre compounds: SuperSoft, Soft, Medium and Hard. After some strong analysis at the end of the day, everyone at BRT comes to a conclusion. This is going to be a very very tough season.

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    Barcelona, Spain

    With just one day’s worth of testing left until the start of the season, everyone is getting ready for the first race, in Melbourne. Melbourne wasn’t the first race last year though, as China had a go at been season opener. However a dull race comfortably won by Santiago Alcaraz meant that China is demoted to race three.

    The atmosphere in the paddock of Barcelona is phenomenal. Everywhere people is talking about the struggles of BRT, how MET must win the title this year, why LeedsLondon and Bridge are serious contenders. The usual suspects have been quick in the first two tests, MET and LeedsLondon appearing to set the pace, but it is always difficult to tell from testing sessions. Some teams disguise pace, some look good but prove to be awful, and some just don’t really care that much.

    One man who is answering a lot of questions from the media is MET team principal Josh Kelly. Kelly, 41, has been in the job for just two years but has asserted himself well in the Formula One world. His team have only been competing for 15 years but have won two drivers titles, and two constructors titles. Most questions are from TV companies, and broadcasters. However, one man from an independent Formula One blog asks a very tricky question to Kelly.

    “So then Josh, who do you see as your main rivals for the season ahead?”

    Kelly stopped for a second before looking up at the sky. Pushing his fingers through his blonde hair, he responded; “It’s too early to say really. But teams like LeedsLondon and Bridge clearly have pace. You can always count on BRT to do well. But the one team who I believe seem to be on the way up are Pyramid Racing. They look really quick and I’m monitoring them.” A long pause occurred before Kelly rushed to say “It’s way too early to say though. I can’t say anything really.” Kelly seemed to regret making the comment about Pyramid Racing and he quickly walked away ignoring the swarm of journalists and reporters following him. Kelly clearly is cross with himself and when he gets back to his office, he throws his picture of MET’s last win across the office in his motorhome.

    It seems that Kelly has a right to be cross, as shockwaves are sent around the paddock, not least in Pyramid Racing. Ninth in the constructor’s last season, and perennial backmarkers. Certainly pressure has been applied to Pyramid’s drivers, Jacob Smith and Jan Bauer. Bauer was in F1 last year, but more pressure is on South African Smith, who is preparing for his first season in F1 after finishing 4th in GP2 last year. Adam Christensen, Pyramid boss, becomes the latest man to be in the centre of a herd of journos wanting to know if he had any knowledge about what Josh Kelly meant. “It is just good to know that a team as high up as MET are predicting good things for Pyramid Racing.”

    After a start to the day overwhelmed by controversy and things been said out of turn, the final testing day begins. After the announcement that they are the mystery new team who have taken over the fallen Magic GP’s resources, Auriste Racing begin their testing by embarking on their first ever lap in their car. Their two drivers are quite experienced, and both competed in F1 last season. Dingang Kumali scored points last year, while highly rated Wojiech Krasniqi wasn’t far off. The Pole is the first to drive out of the garage, and Krasniqi demonstartes just how tough it is for a team like Auriste who have been told at the 11th hour that they are in. He posts a 1.27.622. Then Kumali comes out and does an even worse 1.27.929. However, Auriste clearly have fans in their home country.

    But they don’t have as many fans as defending champion Fernando Sanchez, who flies around the track in his Master Engineering Team machine around the track in 1.19.652. Sanchez maintains his tyres well to improve to a 1.19.420 after 9 laps. His team mate Gianluca Allesandro begins his bid to return to his form of his younger days with a stunning 1.18.944.

    Bridge have been very quiet so far about their pace but their two drivers Johannes Schmit and Matheus Lucio immediately get their cars into the 1.19s, proving that Bridge will be competitive this season. It’s not so easy for the LeedsLondon team, who struggle to get up to pace. Danny Lutemar, who set up the team before appointing himself to drive, gets into the slow 1.19s. Now Santiago Alcaraz has the weight of the world on his shoulders, as he attempts to bring success to LeedsLondon.

    The most anticipated arrival of the day though are BRT. After a dreadful private testing session, Khan and Samuel begin in a session which is really important for the champions, as it is their first chance to compare themselves with their competitors for the season, whoever they may be. Before he goes out for his first run in the car, Naweed Khan is with team principal Castle.

    “I’m really looking forward to this, how’s the car looking?”

    “Tough to say. We didn’t do well in the private test but who knows? Just give it your best shot, you’ll be ok.” Then taking him to one side and putting a nurturing arm around Khan’s back, he whispers fatherly “We’re not gonna do well anyway.”

    “I’m sure we’ll be fine. This team always finds a way through.”

    “Not this time mate. We’re out of the championship and it hasn’t even begun yet.”

    “I’ll do my best! You won’t regret signing me, I promise you.”

    Somewhat disgustedly, Castle points at the car, in various bits, still waiting in the garage with three people around it working with some parts and equipment. “I know. Not even Sanchez and Alcaraz could get that to win anything. We’re doomed.”

    A loud noise interrupts the conversation. BRT’s chief mechanic, Max Westwood, shouts for the car to leave the garage. Khan puts on his fireproof head gear and lifts his helmet down from the shelf above his head. Adorned with the Pakistani flag, it is also has a tribute to Edward Martins, a 19-year old who competed with Khan in karting, until a horrific crash fatally injured him. The young Pakistani driver slots the helmet onto his head and gets in the car. The car is lowered by jacks and the signal is given that he is ready to go out. Driving out of the pit lane he brakes to avoid the Connection Racing car of Alfonso Reyes, who is leaving the pit lane at the same time as Khan. After a long outlap, Khan reports on the team radio “Tyre pressure is good, something is wrong with the steering, very heavy.”

    His engineer replies “Ok, Naweed thank you. We’ll look into it.”

    Beginning his first timed lap, Khan speeds down towards the first corner, essentially a chicane, where late braking is key. Khan runs slightly wide, with normally timed braking but slow steering. As he approaches the run down to the hairpin, he attacks the kerb, slotting in on the racing line to get a good corner exit, before accelerating onto the straight and braking hard for the hairpin. Preparing for the tricky chicane, Khan gets ready for the final straight and he records a disappointing time. The yellow car screams down along the start/finish straight, approaching up to 200mph before that figure decreases to 66mph going through turn 1. Khan presses the red button which allows him to activate the team radio. “Steering still very heavy, I can’t get much power through hard corners.”

    “Ok Naweed, just stay calm, we’re looking at the telemetry.”

    Three corners later, the team come on the radio again. “Ok Naweed, the telemetry looks fine. Just test out different steering strengths.”

    “I can’t do that when the steering is like this. You know, I need a better car than this.”

    Inside the BRT garage, people are shaking heads. Castle is on the pitwall, studying the information when he sees the message. “Who does he think he is?” Castle murmurs to his nearest colleague.

    Coming into the final chicane again, Khan is much quicker and drives over the kerbs, hitting the bumps. Khan loses control and the car dramatically spins and impacts hard into the adjoining wall. Cries and wails come from the crowd, who are clearly concerned about the scale of the impact. A massive crash in just his second ever F1 lap is not what Khan wanted. Anger quickly turns to fear in the BRT F1 garage. Khan has just been involved in a massive accident which has torn his car apart. One wheel is off, and the entire car has been crushed and damaged. The car is a write-off, but down at BRT the concern is for Khan’s welfare. Stewards and Marshals have been at the car for over half a minute, but there is still no movement from Khan. After a few minutes, a stretcher is brought to the car, and after a struggle, Khan part-voluntarily is out of the car and onto the stretcher. Then the orange fabric stretcher is placed inside a helicopter, which begins its journey to the nearest Barcelona hospital.

    A nine minute journey is taken to transport Khan from the circuit to the hospital. Castle has also left the circuit to see his driver, who just a minute earlier he was cross with for his rudeness and arrogance.

    Back at track, everyone is clearly concerned for the welfare of Khan. In all garages, he is been discussed. Right across the pit lane, people are thinking of him. It is very rare that a big crash happens in testing. At BRT though, arguments are happening between staff.

    “Who put the steering wheel in?” His race engineer is cross that a mistake may have been made in the steering. “Something must have gone wrong. Naweed was complaining about the steering and how it was really heavy.”

    The cameras are pushed away as arguments continue.

    At the end of the day, Carlos Samuel’s efforts for BRT have put him in ninth, slightly overshadowed by the crash earlier. LeedsLondon improved, and MET were looking good as were Bridge, but Pyramid Racing had a very good day, with seventh and eighth. The classification of final testing at Barcelona are;

    1 – Santiago Alcaraz (LeedsLondon) 2 – Gianluca Allessandro (Master Engineering Team) 3 – Fernando Sanchez (Master Engineering Team) 4 – Johannes Schmit (Bridge) 5 – Matheus Lucio (Bridge) 6 – Danny Lutemar (LeedsLondon) 7 – Jacob Smith (Pyramid) 8 – Jan Bauer (Pyramid) 9 – Carlos Samuel (British Racing Team) 10 – Alfonso Reyes (Connection) 11 – Javed Hernandez (Connection) 12 – Cheng Yang (Netgear) 13 – Felipe Carvalho (Induced Power) 14 – Ciaran Kelly (Induced Power) 15 – Patrick Raynor (Radnor Hills) 16 – Leonardo Rodriguez (Team Proceed) 17 – Marcus Wright (Netgear) 18 – Matthew Caton (Radnor Hills) 19 – Timm Zimmermann (Team Proceed) 20 – Lucas Meyer (German Power) 21 – Martin Hahn (German Power) 22 – Naweed Khan (British Racing Team) 23 – Wojiech Krasniqi (Auriste) 24 – Dingang Kumali (Auriste)

    After a very long day in Barcelona, two stories have dominated the press. Josh Kelly’s interesting interview and Naweed Khan’s horrendous crash. Waiting outside the Barcelona hospital are plenty of journalists who want to know the latest on the greatest team’s new driver. Castle begins “I can confirm that our driver Naweed Khan is ok after his crash this morning. He is shaken and upset, but he seems ok. However, he is having problems with his left arm. Whether this will be an issue or not we don’t know. Hopefully he will be fit to drive in the Australian Grand Prix in a week’s time.”

    At 10.48pm, inside the MET office, Josh Kelly is startled to hear his door smash shut. In it is Pyramid Racing team principal Adam Christensen.

    “What the fuck do you think you were doing? You weren’t telling anyone about the deal!”

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